A recent editorial shoot sent me to The Sugar House Casino in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. The client arranged for us to photograph casino employees in three different locations within the Casino. The first in the restaurant, one in the high rollers area and one on the deck overlooking the Delaware river.
In our phone conversation the art director expressed concerns about the varied light sources in the casino so we decided to scout the location together beforehand. His fears were well founded. There were lights of many different color temperatures and the front and back walls were glass, which would add daylight to the mix.
I suggested that rather than arriving mid-day as originally scheduled, we push the shoot back to early evening. We could start with the shot on the deck while the sun was still up. I could position our subjects so the sunlight was hitting them from the side and behind then all I had to do was cross light them in front. I used a beauty dish, as they are more stable than umbrellas or softboxes when working outside in the wind. By the time we were ready to shoot inside the sun would be down and I would have one less color temperature to deal with.
The second shot was two people seated at a table in the restaurant. I was able to light them with a 4×6 softbox off to one side and fill them with a ringflash from camera position. The hardest part was staying out the way of the servers as they exited the kitchen with trays of food.
The third and final shot was to be taken in the “High Rollers” area in the middle of the gaming floor. Our contact at the casino expressed concerns that our strobes might upset some of the patrons. Taking his concerns into consideration, I rented an LED light kit as continuous lighting would be less distracting. The LED panels were daylight balanced, I covered each with a full CTO gel to match the tungsten room lighting. I wanted to shoot at the lowest ISO possible so I used an umbrella adapter with a stud on each end, to attach two panels together, doubling the output. This fixture would be my main light. As the LED’s were battery powered there was no need to plug anything in. Because they were lightweight they could be handheld so there was no need for light stands.
My assistant held the main light high to camera right while the art director held another panel behind and camera left to separate our subjects from the background. This combination was just enough light. Using a zoom lens at 24mm wide open at f/4, I had enough depth of field to render my subjects and foreground in focus. Image stabilization took the worry out of shooting handheld at 1/15th of a second. Only minor noise reduction would be needed at ISO 800.
We got what we needed in a matter of minutes with no complaints despite the fact that there was a table full of “high stakes” poker players just out of frame to our right.
The casino was built on the site of the old Jack Frost Sugar Refinery, hence the name Sugar House.
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